Skip to main content


Copyright for Students

Using Duke's electronic resources

Content available through Duke electronic resources are ALL covered by copyright -- books, journals, Web-based learning tools, databases, etc.

It might not be apparent, but when you use a scholarly journal, ebook or database on Duke's campus, your access to that resource has been paid for by the Duke libraries. Content available electronically from Duke's libraries are ALL covered by copyright -- books, journals, Web-based learning tools, databases, etc.

The Duke libraries license this content through a legal contract which says who can use the materials (authorized users) and how they can be used.  These legal contracts over-ride the Copyright Law and while Duke tries to retain as many rights for using the materials as possible, there may be additional restrictions.

What can you do with these electronic resources?

 - Download or print a copy for personal use

 - Post the links on class Websites or blogs -- the links limit the use to authorized users but everyone on campus or on the Duke network has access!

 - Usually share a single copy of the PDF with a colleague at Duke or at another institution (but not a whole group of colleagues)

 - Use articles and book chapters for class e-reserves and often coursepacks (contact your faculty member about these)

 What you may NOT do with these electronic resources?

- Download an entire book, journal issue or volume, or the entire content of a digital file

- Post the PDF or copy of the material on a public or shared online site or database, including file-sharing sites

- Distribute the PDF or copy of the article to discussion lists or other email lists or through digital media like CD-ROMs

Will the publishers ever know if I do any of these things?

- Publishers track the use of their electronic materials

- Publishers spot substantial downloads of books, journal articles and database content

- Most journals add a digital watermark to their articles showing where the article came from  -- look at the bottom of the PDF, you may see something like "Duke University downloaded on 08/22/2012

- Some publishers embed other digital markers in their articles so they can track them across the Internet

- Publishers report these problems to Duke libraries or they can contact Duke legal counsel

- Sharing a password to a resource, especially with someone not at Duke, also violates the University's computer policies

- Publishers and Duke can often identify the user through their email or IP address

What will happen if there is a problem?

- The publisher/copyright owner usually contacts the library and asks us to immediately stop the violation.

- The library will contact you about the problem and take the necessary actions to resolve the violation.

- Duke's compliance offices and legal counsel can get involved, along with deans and department chairs.

- Some publishers will terminate access to all of their products for the entire University immediately -- yes this has happened!

- Duke could be at risk of losing all its access to the resource on a short-term or long-term basis if the abuse continues.

 Be sure to:

- Review and understand Duke's computer policies -- File sharingComputing and Electronic CommunicationDuke Acceptable Use Policy

- Contact the Medical Center Library for further advice about using electronic resources  -- 919.660.1100